Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reading Pop's Poetry

Almost year ago, my grandfather "Pop" passed away.  My immediate family stayed in his house during the weekend of his memorial service.  During that time, my Mom encouraged me to look through his books, to see if there was anything I wanted to keep to remember him by.  There were a few a few comics collections of Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts and Pogo which I took, because my grandfather had a great love of newspaper comics and I grew up to be the cartoonist of our family.

But there was another section of Pop's library that also intrigued me.  There were quite a few poetry books!  During his life, I only knew of my grandfather's interest in poetry because he would write little poems inside birthday and christmas cards to my grandmother.  And every year, whether it was in person or over the phone, on Christmas eve he would recite The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore, from MEMORY (even in his 90s!)

On one of Pop's shelves, I found two collections of Limericks, a book called "101 Famous Poems" and a Rhyming Dictionary.  And although things have been quiet on this blog over the last year, I have been steadily pouring through these books and learning a lot.

Via the instructions in The Ode Less Traveled, I have been reading each of the 101 Famous Poems out loud.  Usually no more than one a day, whenever I happen to see the book laying there, or if I need to calm down before going to bed, or whenever the fancy strikes me.  I guess all the great masters are in here, and there are some lovely poems.  I find I like the short ones the most, and the ones with a simple and straightforward message.  Anyway, I guess this collection has sold millions and millions of copies, but if you don't have a copy, I highly recommend it.

The other book, which Claire and I have been reading each night before going to bed, is simply called "The Limerick."  It has a very dry, academic, 73 page introduction (which I am still trying to get through, zzzz) and then 357 pages of the most god-awful, horrifying, disgusting, lewd, hilarious and entertaining limericks ever collected.  There are five to a page, plus an appendix in the back with variations.  It's very funny to think of my grandfather, who always seemed to me to be a very proper gentleman, reading this book and chuckling over some of its nastier limericks.  I trust my grandmother never knew it was in the house!

Well, if you have been reading this blog, you know I'm super into limericks!  And I have to say, reading hundreds and hundreds of them have really ingrained the rhythm and meter of this form into my brain.  When we finally finish reading the book I'm going to dive back into writing some of my own, and hopefully, along with the help of Pop's rhyming dictionary, the quality will be much improved!


Ryan Claytor said...

What a neat way to wind down at night. ...or when stressed, or whenever. Neat update, Alec.

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

Alec Longstreth said...

Thanks Ryan! Yeah, I find poetry very relaxing. It's a strange and mysterious art form to me. I can understand putting words into an order to tell a story, but it's very interesting to me, the idea of putting them in a certain order that SOUNDS pleasing to the ear, and has a nice rhythm and maybe even tells a story too! I think comics and poetry have a lot in common.